A Fashion Trio for the Ages: Hepburn, Givenchy, and Sabrina

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation: photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina, wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation: photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Last night TCM aired one of my all-time favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, 1954’s Sabrina. Sabrina tells the tale of a chauffeur’s daughter who pines over the handsome playboy son of the wealthy, Long Island family for whom her father works. After her father ships her off to Paris to attend cooking school and kick her crush, Sabrina returns two years later sporting a complete makeover, including a new haircut and Parisian style. When Sabrina accepts an invitation to a fancy dance from her former crush, she promises to wear “a lovely evening dress with yards of skirt and way off the shoulders.” And so enters Sabrina, as the belle of the ball, in the strapless, iconic Hubert de Givenchy dress that would launch the french designer and one of the greatest collaborations in film and fashion history: Hepburn and Givenchy. And here, the story behind the story gets more interesting …

Sabrina director, Billy Wilder, had agreed to Hepburn’s suggestion that her Sabrina character should have a real Parisian dress for the scene where she debuts her European makeover. So it was that Paramount’s famous Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head, was ousted in light of a French designer. What followed was one of the most retold stories in Hollywood fashion history: Head reluctantly sent Hepburn to meet with couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. When Hepburn arrived in Paris, Balenciaga sent her to his protégé, Hubert de Givenchy. Givenchy was expecting to see the other Hepburn (Katherine) and was less than impressed with Audrey – at first. She did win him over and she returned with much more than a single dress for the film.

While Head had tried to disguise Hepburn’s rail-thin physique, Givenchy accentuated it. It was such a successful pairing that Hepburn became Givenchy’s lifetime-muse. Head, who was awarded the Academy Award for costume design for Sabrina, said nothing about it and continued to take credit for the costumes until years later. She finally admitted that she had lied. Said she: “Audrey could have been a designer herself, she had such perfect taste.” Head was right of course, and Hepburn and Givenchy were to launch the Audrey  look that was all her own – it started with Hepburn’s instincts and the film, Sabrina …

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “A Fashion Trio for the Ages: Hepburn, Givenchy, and Sabrina

    • Thank you Mary Ann! You made my day! Isn’t it an interesting story – reminding me that real-life is much more interesting than anything we could imagine! And yes, what a dress! Pure Audrey! xx Mel

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